From the August 2016 Scraps File And Yard Sale Bureau


I have my usual bunch of text I couldn’t use for something or other in August. Mostly writing. But it isn’t going to be free to a good home this time. We’re holding a yard sale this Saturday, for the usual reasons: there’s no space for it in our garage. The mice are holding their Squeak Olympics in it this weekend, at least until the International Olympics Committee hears about it. But the floor space is full of purpose-built stadiums and tracks and a mousethropology exhibit space and all. There’s no sense our interrupting that for our meager needs. Plus it’s so hard winning a bid for the Squeak Olympics.

But there’s other good reasons to hold a yard sale this weekend. For instance, my love and I both hate going through our belongings figuring out what we want to sell. And we hate trying to figure out prices to put on them. And we hate getting up at awful hours on a Saturday to haul stuff out onto a dew-lined lawn. And we hate hour after hour of free-form interactions with strangers. And we hate strangers who’re yard sale divas come over to lie to us about the making of a water pitcher we marked for $2.50 because they want to get it for 25 cents less for crying out loud. Looking it over, maybe we’re just misdirecting our anger. I guess it’s better we do yard sales rather than, like, drive or vote angry. We’re getting less fond of our lawn too. Anyway, here goes.

If you missed last week’s, then let me summarize. You should wash your hands when: (a) You have to. (b) Your towels are too dry. (c) You want to. (d) You need to. (e) Some other reason. (f) No, you really, really need to. It’s okay. We’re not judging here. — cut from the second piece I somehow spun out of hand-washing because I used this same joke in a piece I wrote for my undergrad newspaper in Like 1990 and there’s easily one person out there who might, conceivably, remember it. And sure, I expanded on the joke, but did I make it new enough? No. You can try it on an unsuspecting audience for just $1.75.

you have to check your door at the door. it’s part of our open-door policy. if you can bring your door down here then it’s pretty sure to have got opened. of course there was that time last year when rick brought the whole thing door frame and all, unopened. that’s why we don’t talk about or to him anymore. — cut from my major expose on doors that I’ve figured would be good now that I found something I wrote around the same theme like twelve years ago. $3.50 obo.

lumber yard // 84 lumber //lumber miller // architectural salvage — cut from either notes I made while talking to my father about how to get a new screen window for the living room or from my failed attempt at Beat Poetry Night down at the hipster bar. It was actually karaoke night. $1.50 or your Zippy the Pinhead fanfic.

bake or boil or simmer or broil or maybe just let it sit and think about what it’s done until it’s ready to make amends — cut from a hilarious expose of recipes that I had to drop because I don’t really care about recipes or much about how to make food. Don’t mind me. I’m recovering from the discovery I’ve been making at least some kinds of Noodle-Roni all wrong for years and never suspected. $1.25 or $1.50 if it’s still on sale by suppertime.

statistics saturday: ten moments from the yard sale that didn’t make me want to curl up inside our pet rabbit’s hutch and die — cut because how can I write this when we haven’t even had the sale yet and my memories of last time are faint enough we’re going through it all over again? $0.75 no haggling.

the jute mill is exploded! — cut from Walt Kelly’s Pogo comic, the 20th of October, 1954, because it was just a dream Churchy La Femme was having. $4.00 because it’s in a hardcover book (the most recent attempt at Complete Pogo reprints) but you’ll have to hack my limbs off to get it away from me. “Jute” is too a thing.

We’ll be set up on the lawn from 9 am to 3 pm or whenever we’re sick with how much rain we’re getting on our heads. Tickets for the Squeak Olympics are going fast, because the mice are still shy.

How To Wash Your Hands Or Someone Else’s If Things Have Come To That


Let’s suppose you’ve decided to go along with last week’s advice and wash your hands. If you’re not willing to then I’m afraid we aren’t going to do anything useful here. Maybe we should meet again next week when I’m going to talk about how movies get made or some other nonsense like that. While I admit I’m responsible for most of what goes on around here, I can’t do absolutely everything. At some point you have to read it or in some sense neither of us exists. That sense is foolish.

To wash your hands you need a couple of things, which is how they make their money. First is your hands, or the hands of someone who’s entrusted them to your care. If they are someone else’s hands do be sure you don’t return them to the wrong person. Returning hands to the wrong person can lead to embarrassing situations. It throws off their typing and they send text messages to incorrect people. If you take anything away from this essay it should be the importance of good inventory management practices. Bring them back when you’re done.

You’ll need water, which can be found by turning on the faucet. This you do by turning the handle or pressing it down or pushing a button or something like that if it’s the kind of faucet that works. Or you might be at one of the city’s numerous weekend jazz street festivals. They’ll have those things where you step on a partly deflated rubber bladder so the spout spits a mouthful of tepid water at you. You don’t have to support the city in its weekend jazz street festival habit, you know.

If you have one of those sensor-driven faucets then you get water by punching it. At least I do. I have a skin condition which results in my being invisible to hand sensors. In public bathrooms I have to stand helpless by the sink. Then I have to wait for someone to come near and then shove their hands under the faucet, scrub swiftly as possible, and flee before they can identify me.

Identifying me is easy considering how often I wear t-shirts for obscure amusement parks and how I am taller than every person in Singapore. That last was more identifying back when I lived in Singapore. Now it’s only a solid identifier if the person I’ve technically-speaking committed battery against happens to know Singaporean demographics. You get less of that in mid-Michigan than you’d think. Not a lot less, only maybe six percent less. Still, less is less. Oh, I might also have technically committed a kidnapping across urinal lines. Anyway, I’m tall and I guess there have to be some drawbacks for how great it is otherwise.

Besides water you’ll need soap. Soap comes in solid form if you want to touch something that’s been repeatedly rubbed by strangers who needed to wash their hands. It also comes in liquid form if you want to not be sure you have enough of it. And finally it comes in a foamy form that smells great but never seems like enough even if you have a foamy puddle large enough to conceal a guinea pig. I bet someone’s working on another kind of soap even more generally inadequate. Maybe it’s a sensor-driven spray of ultraviolet waves that might not even exist. They’ll get called particles because it makes the diagrams of how to use the thing more cute. You just know they’re going to do that. Punch the ultraviolet-particle soap dispenser now, before it even exists, and don’t stop.

To clean the hands apply water and soap to your hands or the hands of those in your cleaning custody until cleaning is done. Drying your hands afterward used to be optional but not required. Many of us liked doing without this step. It let us brush a slightly-soapy water film over the whole world, one or two hands-widths at a time. But with the rise in smart phones there’s no doing that anymore. The water gets underneath your phone’s protective screen layer somehow and screws up everything, even tapping stuff nowhere near the trapped water bubble. Such are the ways new technology ruins old lifestyles.

A squirt of hand sanitizer is an excellent way to turn hands you’re not sure are clean into hands that feel gummy and unclean. I recommend it. Time things right and you can spend the whole day washing your hands, and wouldn’t that be an improvement on whatever you were otherwise up to?

When Should You Wash Your Hands?


Hands. They’re fine things to have. Without them, where would the glove and mitten industries be? Certainly not curled up and tossed in the corner of the shelf in the hall closet. How would we curl them up? With my toes? Maybe. I’ve got surprisingly dextrous toes. But I couldn’t curl up and toss everybody’s gloves and mittens in a world without hands. There’d be too many things to take care of even if we pretend gloves and mittens are the same as the glove and mitten industries. For example there’s finding out whether I could open a jar of peanut butter with my feet. Probably not, because there’s no way I could get my feet clean enough to dream of touching the thing food is in with them. I have a hard enough time walking into the pantry in bare feet.

Which brings me to my topic and you to relief that I have a topic. A critical part of caring for your hands is washing them. And yet what do we really know about hand washing? Almost everything, if we’re paying attention. It isn’t all that difficult to work out. Washing of hands should be done under many conditions, among them:

When handling food. Especially if you’re handling hot soup, even if you’re doing so very quickly for fear of scalding.

After handling food. Unless you were handling it by purely psychological means guiding it to do what you wish by clever suggestion. That’s your choice, but why are you pulling these passive-aggressive head games on your bowl of Museli? Keep on like this and you’re going to be pulling pick-up artist stunts on a bag of Fritos. That’s making the world a more needlessly miserable place. Stop it. Just stop.

Before eating food. Don’t go thinking you’ve found a loophole if you didn’t handle food and just got it delivered to you by some outside agent. We’re paying attention. We aren’t going to let you get away with any argument that wouldn’t work on your mom when you were seven. And even if you did go directly from handling your food as part of preparing it to eating don’t think you can skip the in-between washing step either. In fact, just for that we’re going to say you should wash between your post-handling washing and your eating. And maybe in-between the post-handling washing and the pre-eating washing. And if you think of complaining about that then we’ll give you something to complain about.

After coughing or sneezing into your hand. Also after blowing your nose into your hand. We could avoid this easily if people didn’t make the mistake of coughing or sneezing or boogering into their hands but so many of us do. It’s natural. What else are we supposed to do but put the body parts we use to interpret and manipulate the world directly in the midst of an unpleasant eruption of secreted body fluids? You could lift your arm and cough, sneeze, or whatever into the inside of your elbow, according to a panel of American Medical Association doctors who were kidding but are sticking with that advice now because they’re delighted to see how many people are actually doing it. They want to know how far this will go. You would too.

When you are coping poorly with regret for past mistakes. Not sure when that is? You can set some time and trust it’s about the right amount of your life spent coping poorly. Use this simple guideline. Add 15 to your age and spend that percentage of the day in futile self-recrimination. So for example a 37-year-old would spend 52 percent of his or her waking day trying to wash off the guilt. Add five more percent if absolutely everyone agrees something was not by any reasonable measure your fault.

You know what? Between each bite of food too. We warned you.

After using the bathroom, but before leaving it. We agree there’s the obvious problem here of how you’re supposed to get out of the bathroom without touching something that’s been spending all its day, every day, in the bathroom. Recommended is to find a clean enough section of the bathroom and make gentle whimpering noises until someone comes in and checks on you. Race through the open door, tackling your rescuer so they don’t get stuck in the bathroom too. You absolutely don’t want to get stuck with yourself on the outside and your rescuer on the inside of the bathroom because then there’s no way out except getting yourself stuck in there again, all the while that your soup is getting cold and well-handled.

Before handling food. We saw you skimping earlier. Go back and do it again.

Note: washing can be done by yourself. There is no need to pay for specialist services or to have your hands sent out for custom care. It’s nothing but profit for the dealers.

In Plans That Can’t Possibly Go Wrong


I have what many people would consider a compulsive personality. For example, while I know that to me this isn’t the reasoning that motivates a particular kind of behavior, people observing me might conclude I was washing my hands because I figured I had gotten them dirty in the process of washing them the first time. No. My actual reasons are much more complicated than that but that is pretty much why.

Anyway, I think I’ve figured a way to get this to work for me. All I have to do is set myself the habit of doing one thing that deliberately breaks one of my compulsions each day. And that’s going splendidly. In fact, I was doing this barely a week when I felt like I should do something to deliberately break two or three compulsions each day. Once I get myself going like this, it’s hard to stop. So I figure there’s an at least forty percent chance that I’ll collapse into a black hole by Flag Day. More on this as it comes to pass.

When The Car Wash Changed Management


I was passing one of those self-service car wash stations and noticed its sign proclaimed it was “BACK UNDER OLD MANAGEMENT”. Possibly it declared the back-ness to be proud. That’s the normal emotional tone to put on that sort of declaration. But I was busy with driving and all that, and then wondering: those things have management? It’s a self-service car wash, just a concrete overhang and a bunch of coin-operated hoses of varied content. Having management at all seems to risk over-administrating it, even if all you do is stop in once a month to confirm the place isn’t currently on fire in important ways.

But there must be management at all, if nothing else to make sure that once every two months the sign proclaiming this to be a self-service car wash is turned off for four hours, thereby establishing that the sign isn’t some public feature just there to light the way but rather a private service that can be turned off at will or when the bulb burns out. So I guess that’s where management comes in at all, and can get changed, and go on to mess things up so badly that the old management coming back is worth crowing about. Still I’m imagining how the new management’s failure unfolded.

Surely new management began optimistically, with a sign proclaiming “NOW UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT”, though probably not saying who the new management was, since that would add an embarrassing personal touch to the place’s existence. New Management probably declared optimism and good cheer and maybe even an amnesty for people who abandon one-quarter-filled McCafe cups on top of the vacuum cleaners. That showed how poorly New Management understood the community, that they would interpret as slight littering their clientele’s ongoing public art project about consumerism and Shamrock Shakes. The customers wrote hurtful things about New Management in the local art journals, not ignoring the irony that since they had no idea who New Management was, they might be sharing a line at McDonald’s behind someone who’s somehow making buying a small coffee a difficult transaction, all jollily sharing one of those inexplicable confusing things about life.

Perhaps then New Management tried to make amends, rotating the concrete planters so as to show a slightly less moldy side to the street without actually putting any plants out to die in them. And the clients responded with tentative friendliness, especially when a rumor went around that the machines were now taking Canadian coins. Due to a programming defect that manifested itself with a new firmware update, because surely we’re in an age where self-service car wash change boxes need firmware updates, the machines were indeed taking Canadian and all other kinds of coins, sneaking into the patrons’ backseats and sometimes sending out remote units from the vacuum cleaners — those flimsy plastic heads detach for good, alarming reasons — to take any suspicious coin or coin-like items that the patron might have any dealings with. That would get sorted out in a weekly bug fix, but not before the community had lost literally several wheatpennies and a token for a Dance Dance Revolution game from a family fun center just outside Saginaw, Michigan.

Sure, a mis-step, but really the blame falls on whoever missed an obvious car-wash-automated-kleptomania bug in the firmware code update. Nobody knows who the programmers were or why they missed it. They might have been distracted by the weirdly slow line at McDonald’s. New Management tried restoring peace by setting the machine that dispenses greasy thin cloth towels for “drying” the car on free for a couple of weeks, then stopped. New Management tried drawing people back to the place by adding the scent of that thing they use to make medicines taste like cherry into the water. This would finally give patrons with sore throats a socially acceptable context to lick their side mirrors, as they’d be fresh-washed, but the plan goes wrong when new cars are attacked by swarms of coughing bees. At this point Old Management came back around, sighed, and offered to swap the self-service car wash place for something more New Management’s speed, like a disconnected telephone booth.

New Management agreed, and went to get a small McCafe coffee to feel better.